Kim Collins’ Secrets for Longevity: After 2 Decades of International Competion

Came across this interview with Kim Collins today from Spikes Magazine.

For those that don’t know, Kim Collins is an absolute legend, hitting a personal best this year in the 100m dash, 18 years after his first appearance in an Olympic semi-finals in 1996.

For any track & field athlete this is a worthwhile read, but especially sprinters – here’s a guy that has remained relevant in international sport for two full decades.

You first broke in to the world’s elite in 2000, and you’re still there. Kim Collins, what is your secret?

“I try to preserve my body. I think injuries are preventable. Sometimes I’ll race and I feel something, I just have to chill.”

“The problem is, when it comes to training, it’s what we call volume and intensity. It means: the distance you run, how fast you run it, and how many times.

“Both volume and intensity cannot be the same, but for some athletes it is – and it’s too high.

“One guy told me he was running 20 x 100 metres all out in a training session. I would never do more than 3 x 100 metres at high intensity.

“Very rarely, you go all out in training, and I think that’s the mistake most people make. They come to training every day and want to break a personal record or world record.

“You come to train Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – and then you compete on Saturday. And you wonder why you’re running slower in competition than in training. It’s a vicious cycle.”

You mentioned that a lot of sprinters overdo it in training. How do you do it?

“I start out slow, probably running 17-18 seconds for the 100m. You get your body accustomed to that. It’s low intensity, but high in volume. You look for form, you look for technique.

“When your body gets accustomed to that, you take it down a notch, and you go a little bit faster. As you get faster, you do fewer amounts of reps. What that does, it teaches your body to run 100 metres. It teaches you to run. And then you get faster, and faster and faster.

“People want to go on top of the top. We call it ‘top-a-top’. It doesn’t exist. If you’re on top, there’s no top on top of that top.

“You’re trying to ask for something that’s not there, and that is when your body begins to break down.”

When did you learn all this?

“Trial and error. Back in high school, you’d come to training and do 10 x 200 metres all out. For me, that’s not good. I was in pain for days.

“When I won [world 100m gold] in Paris, I was training three days a week, some people got upset and said ‘that’s not good’. But it’s about understanding, and not doing too much.

“Even when you go the gym and see the guys that live there, you cannot lift like them. But still people attempt to do it. When it comes to listening to your body, a lot of the time you feel a little tweak and instead of getting treatment, you want to push further and still wants to compete.”

Do you go the gym much?

For no more than an hour a day, about three to four times a week. A lot of people forget we are human beings. We’re not indestructible. There are days when you’re in bed and not feeling well. You say, ‘how do you feel?’ There are days when we have to say we’re not up to it. We’ll stay in.


3 thoughts on “Kim Collins’ Secrets for Longevity: After 2 Decades of International Competion

  1. joe1212 says:

    Great post Sam! I completely agree with everything you talked about in this post. But I was wondering what happens if you have a coach that is not as progressive as you or I. How do you approach the topic with them that their current training regiment may be hurting my performance? Any recommendations? How did you deal with these problems while competing at Maryland/BU?


  2. Sam! says:

    Hi Joe! Thank you for the kind words. The first thing that you want to do is look for a better coach – there is no substitute for someone who knows what they are doing. However, in many cases that isn’t an option, so here are the questions I’d ask:

    #1) Is their training regiment hurting your performance, or is it simply less than optimal?
    I would look first at what they are doing right. Many coaches end up with injured athletes and poor performances not because what they do is wrong, rather that how they do it or include it in the general program does more harm than good. Maxing out on the track and not adjusting the lifting period later that day could be an example. Not only will it help you to understand that the coach has some idea of what they are doing, but it will also help you if you choose to discuss the training plan with them. I was talking track and field with an international level athlete from the Ukraine this past weekend in New York – every three weeks of hard (2 a day) training is followed by an easier week. If his program were to exclude that rest week, he would be overtrained in a month. But it doesn’t, so he is a few tenths off of an Olympic qualifying mark.

    Also, and this is true as a coach as well as an athlete – once we start believing that we know more than someone, we often cut off any wisdom that that person may be able to offer. Even my worst coach has given me advice on one thing or another that has worked.

    #2) Can you discuss this issue with them in a way that will lead to a positive change?
    There are (bad) coaches out there that will balk if you question them. The last thing that you want is an antagonistic relationship with someone that you will rely on if you wish to succeed. Like it or not, you probably need them for something – to enter you in a meet, to watch your technique, to support you, to help you see your own assumptions about training and competing in a different light. If you can artfully do this, go for it, but be cautious, people don’t like to be questioned, especially by people that they think should be subordinate to them. The best way to help your coach see your vision is evidence – training-wise, I had a very long leash in high school because I had been doing my own thing for a bit and had a lot of success from it. My coach understood that I was on a roll and did not want to mess with that momentum.

    #3) Can you adjust your own approach to training without even changing the program?
    A big problem that I see with athletes who overtrain is not the volume that they do, but the intensity in which they do it. On the same note, a lot of the most successful athletes that I have trained with have been criticized by teammates for their intensity in training – i.e., they don’t push through pain enough. The fastest sprinter I ever trained alongside was accused (behind his back) of “chillin'” during workouts, running workouts neck and neck with runners he was much faster than. However, he was training at an optimal level and the others were overtraining. When I was at Maryland, I was one of two high jumpers. I did every workout at the intensity prescribed and overtrained, while the other took days off or simply warmed up on days that he wasn’t feeling it, would go easy on many workouts, and ended up an All-American.
    If the coach gives you a plan that will overtrain you, you can adjust the effects of the workouts by your attitudes towards them. 12×100 meters all-out is not a smart workout, but if you focus on your technique while running at 85% on all or every other repetition, then you will reap much better results than if you do the prescribed intensity.
    Likewise, if you are a basketball player and the strength and conditioning coach has you going hard the morning after a double overtime game and you can’t skip it, just drop your weights. You can change the focus of a workout, save your body, and reap greater benefit from your training.

    Lastly, and the thing that I did in high school and not in college that helped me to get far more out of lesser talent at that time (compared with my collegiate self):

    You MUST be willing to take criticism. Western sports machismo, the more training, more intensity –> better results, which is ingrained into almost every team, does not line up with what actually gets results. Often, less enlightened coaches reward hard work and not smart work. If you are training smart, people will question your dedication, commitment, and work ethic. In high school, I (wrongly, in many cases) thought I knew more than everyone, so I took this criticism as a sign that I was doing something different. I only trained 2-3 days a week if I had a competition, and was peaking while other high schoolers had burnt out. In college, I thought my coaches knew more about training than I did, and I trusted them enough to follow their plan, and was too injured to train literally every month of December after the preseason.

    Listen to others, but also trust yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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